Digital technology is a key enabler of new healthcare delivery, from remote patient monitoring to apps
Patient-centric services are transforming the healthcare ecosystem. Increasingly, treatment in clinics and hospitals is being replaced with new therapeutic approaches and specialized treatments that harness the latest technologies. This shift has had significant implications for patients, healthcare providers, and for the supply chains that underpin the industry, opines Annette Naude, Regional Head of Life Sciences and Chemicals, DHL Global Forwarding Middle East Africa.
With virtual healthcare and telemedicine becoming the norm after the pandemic, patients expect the same choice and convenience in healthcare that they enjoy when procuring other products and services, giving rise to a form of ‘healthcare consumerism’. As a result, established companies are diversifying their offerings to more personalized healthcare products and services targeting specific consumer groups.
In the Middle East, a vibrant healthcare market, state-of-the-art hospitals are rapidly expanding their scope of service delivery to cater to the growing needs of all residents, with a focus on more tailored treatment approaches.
There is significant opportunity for supply chain and logistics operations to support and promote this new model of patient-centric healthcare. Not only will it help establish a deeper understanding of how patients want to engage with health services and receive treatments, it will also help determine what information they want access to and in which format.
Digitalization to eliminate siloes
Digital technology is a key enabler of new healthcare delivery, from remote patient monitoring to apps and videoconferencing for doctor-patient consultations. In fact, digitizing the supply chain offers multiple opportunities for participants to improve the quality, security, agility and cost-effectiveness of their supply networks.
We have seen how digital technology is rapidly eliminating the blind spots that make supply chains hard to manage. With smart sensors and connected systems, healthcare companies can achieve visibility of the location and status of every shipment, in close to real time.
Using asset tracking technologies, drug and device suppliers can effectively monitor the status of consignment stocks at hospitals or even in patient’s homes, paving the way for seamless, automated replenishment. Blockchain technologies can support information exchange and supply chain coordination in complex, multi-stakeholder networks.
Blockchains can also be used to verify compliance and stop counterfeit products entering the supply chain. Smart analytics technologies, including digital twins, can be used to optimize material flows and inventory disposition, helping reduce waste and maintain availability.
In addition, AI systems can be used to take stock of the current availability of specific medications when making recommendations for doctors, or to automatically create order and reserve stock ready for dispatch when the supervising physician signs off the prescription.
Improved speed, efficiency and convenience
Unfortunately, supply chain and healthcare digitization initiatives are usually designed and implemented independently. But bringing those two sides of the digital equation together could pave the way for a positive change in efficiency, speed and convenience. For example, in hospital settings, dispensing robots could generate replenishment orders automatically based on real time data on demand for drugs and devices on the ward.
The required data already exists in the value chain, but it is distributed across multiple different systems with limited interconnections. Integrating this data into a common platform would allow value chain participants to derive new insights and automate activities to a much larger extent than currently possible.
For many Middle East players, the emerging challenge is learning how to use all that data to optimize supply chain performance. It will require a robust data platform strategy, with appropriate governance and access control to ensure that data can be used widely across the organization, without compromising security, confidentially or compliance.
Looking ahead, as organizations in every industry in the region face greater pressure to minimize the environmental impact of their operations, digitalization of the supply chain can also ensure reduced carbon emissions and optimization of transportation assets – making it a win-win for the healthcare sector, governments and logistics operators.